Over the holidays I hosted a get-together for a few high school friends when I went home for Christmas. My menu consisted of chicken saté with peanut sauce, water crackers topped with thin slices of smoked salmon and parsley cream cheese, spiced roasted nuts, herb-seasoned olives, an assortment of holiday cookies, St. Germain cocktails (my favorite drink right about now) and this orange-pecan wild and long-grain rice.
Given that I was rushing around trying to put together this impromptu gathering to reconnect with old friends, while still enjoying some of my much needed vacation downtime, I definitely looked for delicious, yet quick short-cuts in preparing my entertaining menu. That’s when I thought about this wonderful rice I recently tasted from The District Chop House  in D.C., which was flavored with a light hint of orange and toasty pecans throughout a bed of fluffy wild and long-grain rice.
Looking to recreate this dish without a lot of ingredients and in a short amount of time, I reached for a box of wild and long-grain seasoned rice mix from one of the few boxed rice brands that I like – Near East . I like Near East’s products because they tend to have the least amount of additives and preservatives (if any) when I compare ingredients lists. In fact Near East marks all of their boxed mixes as 100% natural.
The texture and flavor of the rice with this mix from Near East is delicious and the addition of the orange zest contributes an interesting and unexpected flavor that you might not have considered putting in rice before. I hadn’t before tasting the combination from The District Chop House. And of course if you’re a nut lover, the crunch of toasted pecans adds both flavor and texture.
Using the short-cut of a high-quality seasoned rice mix with natural ingredients and adding just a few other fresh flavors can allow you to have a delicious side dish on your table quickly!
Orange-Pecan Wild & Long-Grain Rice … Quickly!
Serves 2 – 4
One 6oz. box of Near East  brand wild and long-grain rice blend (original)
1-3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more to drizzle
1-1/2 teaspoons orange zest (preferably in thin strips)
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the wild and long-grain rice blend as directed according to the package. While the rice is cooking, spread pecans in a single layer over a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 – 6 minutes or until pecans become fragrant and turn a rich, toasted brown color. (Don’t burn them! Let your nose be your guide.)
Once the rice is cooked, fluff and gently stir in orange zest and pecans. Drizzle rice with a little additional olive oil if desired and serve! It’s that simple.